Last year, USA Today reported Expedia may have been targeted by a negative search optimization campaign that caused it to rank lower on search engine results pages. The site lost “25 percent of its visibility in Google searches” over the course of one week, according to third-party search analytics firm Searchmetrics. This represents a huge hit for an online business that survives off links and e-commerce.
Although this could be a clear case of otherwise indiscernible negative search engine optimization tactics, it could also be the result of a series of bad or outdated search optimization practices that hit the fan late. In this case, the site would only need to go through and clean up its backlinks.
Back in 2012, Google deployed its “disavow links” feature, which tells Google to ignore certain links when assessing a site. A company (such as one in Expedia’s predicament) that has done all it can to remove spammy or low quality links from the Web could use the disavow links button as its next step. In most cases, however, Google can assess sites without this feature—and without fear there are links causing harm to sites.
“There’s a lot of people who talk about negative SEO but very few people who actually try it—and fewer still who actually succeed,” says Google’s Matt Cutts. According to him, the threat of negative SEO is still little to none.
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